Q. I work in an industry where it seems like everyone has a graduate degree in whining. I listen to so many complaints on a daily basis it makes me want to quit. What can I do to get people to stop whining and act like they are older than two?
A. Buried in every complaint is a request that is just dying to get out but that is badly articulated. Ironically, most people hate to be needy but they are comfortable with complaining. People frequently equate whining with anger, and they often believe that asking others for anything makes them look vulnerable.
Consider trees that survive in nature. A long-lived tree has deep roots but is utterly flexible under stormy conditions. People with long-lived, resilient careers know there are many times bending and asking for help is the most effective move.
There are a few people in every workplace who will blow up at you if you so much as ask for a cup of coffee, but most people are actually flattered to be asked for help. When we are asked for help, we feel competent and important.
When we are whined at, we feel annoyed, blamed and uncooperative. The person doing the whining usually believes they are looking powerful by blaming us. However, when most of hear some version of, "But you never give me the good projects," we contemplate revenge more than assistance.
Next time someone starts whining, look them straight in the eye and say, "I know there is something specific you want from me, but I don't know what it is. What would you like?" Most people will continue to whine, so you will have to continue to ask for what they want you to do or say multiple times.
The truth is that most whiners don't think through what they want before they start to whine. People who habitually whine are accustomed to whimpering the minute they get uncomfortable. When you ask them to tell you what they actually want, it will be the first time they ever entertained that question.
Your office whiners will stop once they know that you know what they want and offer it to them, refer them to someone who can, or tell them why you can't and offer them the option to go above your head.
When you are surrounded by coworkers who complain, you'll find most of them aren't skilled at negotiating for what they want. Obviously, with all the whining you've put up with, you may feel like you work at a daycare, not an adult job. However, if you become the person who turns complaints into requests, there will be no need for them to whine at you anymore.
The last word(s)
Q. I find my coworkers incredibly annoying. I spend most of my personal time trying to figure out how to get them to shape up. Am I just being unusually irritable?
A. No, many of my clients joke about wishing they could set their laser printers to stun when coworkers act up. What you can do is set your brain into learning mode and outsmart the people who annoy you.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
How to defuse whining at the office
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